Under a banner that proclaimed "Home of the Champion Harris Hurricanes," several dozen legislative aides jammed the southwest first floor hallway of the Longworth House Office Building late last week to eat, drink and talk about the future. It was the end of another session of Congress, a time of nostalgia, particularly for those who won't be coming back next year.
A year ago, the annual Harris Christmas party coincided with the passage of the $1.7 billion Metro rail funding bill, and was a time of great optimism by staffers of Rep. Herbert E. Harris, the Northern Virginia Democrat. Elated over Harris' biggest legislative success, some of his employes were predicting that in several years, a similar party might be held on the other side of Capitol Hill, outside the office of "Senator Harris."
But this year, except for reliving victories of the Harris Hurricanes touch football team, the conversation was tinged with gallows humor. Harris was defeated last month by Republican Stanford E. Parris. The most frequently asked question at what turned out to be a farewell party was, "What are you going to do?"
Most of those in attendance, including Harris, have yet to come up with an answer. An exception is Chris Spanos, his administrative assistant, who has signed on as a consultant to former Democratic state chairman Richard Davis, who hopes to run for lieutenant governor of Virginia next year.
The Harris-Parris switch is part of the biggest turnover in the Washington area congressional delegation since the Watergate House cleaning in 1974. Two of the beneficiaries of that throw-the-rascals-out mood were Harris and his Democratic colleague, Joseph L. Fisher of Arlington. Now both are leaving, Fisher having lost the 10th District seat to Republican Frank Wolf.
While Harris and Fisher apparently were victims of the conservative tide, the third switchover in the delegation was unrelated to political philosophy. Maryland Republican Robert E. Bauman cracked his own seeming invincibility among 1st District voters with the revelation that he had fallen prey to what he described as the "twin compulsions of alcoholism and homosexual tendencies." He will be replaced by Democratic State Del. Roy Dyson of St. Mary's County.
While Bauman is, as they say, weighing his options, his wife, Carol, who worked in the Nixon White House, is filling the income void with a job on the Reagan transition team.
Democrat Michael Barnes of Montgomery County revealed in a floor speech the other day that the departure of the conservative Bauman will cause a special problem for him.
"It has been a very rare instance . . . that Bob and I have agreed on any issue. Our names are next to each other in the alphabet. So I can usually tell how I am going to vote by walking through the doors of the House and glancing up on the wall [at the voting board] to see how Bob voted. I know that I will be pretty safe in that I will do what I believe is right by voting the opposite."
Barnes went on to praise Bauman as "one of the most able and talented and aggressive legislators who has ever served in this institution." Barnes recalled the day that "Bob stood on the floor and said, 'some have called me a watchdog. . . . Well, if that is my role here, then . . .' and he howled like a dog in the night, and that one howl changed the outcome of the vote . . . because . . . it rounded up the opponents."
The liberal Barnes added that "as maddening as his actions often were . . . we always recognized the talent, the ability, the dedication of this extraordinarily able member. . . . He leaves with the prayers of a lot of us on both sides of the aisle, and that he and his family have our prayers for his future. I say as a Democrat, with some regret, I am totally confident that we have not heard the last of Bob Bauman in public service."
Republican Rep. Don H. Clausen of California was moved to rhyme to note Bauman's departure. A sample verse:
"To see his brilliant mind/And adherence to rules at work,/Or know of his untiring efforts/to rid injustice where it lurks."
There is a cloth Christmas tree on the door, and a poinsettia on the receptionist's desk. The staff will exchange $2 joke gifts next Wednesday. Even though their boss rolled up 81 percent of the vote in winning a fifth term, there is no air of celebration in the offices that make up Suite 308 of the Canon House Office Building.
"There has been no change in her condition," Art Yeager said quietly as he discussed his boss, Rep. Gladys Noon Spellman. Since suffering heart arrest while campaigning on Oct. 31, the 5th District Maryland Democrat has been in a "sleeplike state."
Yeager, who is Mrs. Spellman's press assistant, said the staff continues to provide constituent service. He also noted, with more than the usual political pride, that on Dec. 5, President Carter signed into law two of Spellman's legislative endeavors, both of which remedy problems in her area of expertise, federal workers.
The family is awaiting medical advice, still "a month or two away," before deciding whether Mrs. Spellman ever will be able to resume the duties of her office. The suggestion by Maryland Republican Chairman Allan Levey that the GOP should be looking around for a candidate backfired, according to Yeager, who displayed a cartoon sent in by a supporter, that depicts Levey as a ghoul.
The office has received thousands of cards and letters expressing concern and many people stop by to offer encouragement to the staff. One recent visitor, Julia Pryor of Laurel, simply wrote "prayer" beside her name in the visitors' register.
Sandwiched among eulogies to John Lennon and Dr. Michael Halberstam in the Congressional Record were tributes to defeated congressional colleagues. Some read like those syrupy sentiments found in high school yearbooks.
Fisher and Harris were honored in tandem by House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill as "two superb legislators from Northern Virginia." O'Neill said Fisher would be remembered as a "champion of progressive and responsible tax policy" and Harris as "an effective spokesman for federal employes and home rule for the District."
The contrasting styles of Fisher and Harris were apparent in the words selected to praise them.
Fisher invariably was cited for his integrity, intellect and level-headedness, or as Indiana's Andrew Jacobs put it, "that gentle, iron man." James L. Obestar of Minnesota, calling Fisher "one of the most scholarly members of the House," said he was amazed that Fisher had been the target of the Moral Majority, because "his morality and integrity are above criticism."
On the other hand, the gregarious Harris was remembered, again in the words of Jacobs, for "brightening all our days by his good humor and sensible ideas."
Hyperbole was not restricted to describing departing members of Congress. D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy lavished his rhetoric on retiring District Council member Willie J. Hardy, whose public career stands as "a shining beacon in a sea often filled with confusion, chaos and hopelessness," and who exhibited "the courage and strength of a Ghandi or a Martin Luther King Jr.," said Fauntroy.